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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

when will we ever learn?

AP Photo/David Goldman (Credit: AP)

AP Photo/David Goldman (Credit: AP)

During the Việtnam War, there was a popular folk song covered by several artists ~  Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Written by Pete Seeger as an anti-war song, it continues to be one of my favourite anti-violence statements.

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Yes, it’s about war. But it’s also about the ongoing pattern of sanctioned violence. It’s about a culture that makes games of violence: boxing, football, mixed martial arts. Just two days before the newest horrific tragedy in Charleston (9  mothers/fathers/sons/daughters/wives/husbands/lovers…) I looked up from dinner

at a popular restaurant to see two bloody men beating each other senseless. We call it ‘sports.’ Dance? Design? Poetry & art & making? When was the last time you saw any of those on network TV?

via flickr

via flickr

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Ours is a culture that reifies & glorifies violence. Want to torpedo a political candidate? Say that s/he is coming for our guns. Guns are our passion — not for hunting (I know many hunters who are all for stronger gun laws, and better enforcement of the ones we have). But ‘in case’… ‘In case’ of…what? In case you want to take out 27 elementary children and their teachers. In case you hate other races so much that you want to kill them while they pray, nine of them. In case of fear & hate, I guess?

I am sadder than I can describe at these grievous new murders. I can’t begin to imagine how so much hatred can fill a man so young. Where was love during his childhood? Where was the village we know it takes to raise a good man? A good woman? A happy child? This was a church, America. A sacred space, where men, women, & children had gathered to worship. Where they felt safe…

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via google

via google

Somewhere, America has gone egregiously off-track. The land of the brave has become the land of gun-wielding haters — from all walks of life, from religious backgrounds that NEVER taught such hatred. And my beginner’s heart aches. Because once again, the flowers are gone to graveyards far too soon. And the young girls, and the young men, and the families and children left behind to grieve? Who will tell them that our guns are worth their mothers fathers sons & daughters? Who will have the temerity to pretend this is so?

There are not enough flowers in the world to make these losses right.

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yearly checkups

via pixabay

via pixabay

Friday is my annual physical exam. I don’t particularly enjoy it — although I like my doctor. It’s something one does, to be sure you’re okay overall. Preventive maintenance.

So I have to get up abominably early, w/ NO caffeine & no breakfast, and go get needled, poked, & prodded. Plus answer the same dumb (but necessary) questions I hear every year to 18 months (I’m not as timely w/ these as I should be!).

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But I do it. Pretty regularly. The odd few months when I forget, but I make it a kind of priority.

And I’m wondering: what would happen if I did that w/ my spiritual life? My emotional well-being? What if regularly — at least once a year, for cryin’ out loud! — I sat down, and reflected (as seriously as my doc does) over the state of my spiritual & emotional health? What if there were ‘tests’ I could take? W/ metrics by which I could measure my overall condition in both these fairly subjective areas?

As a bonafide old hippy dippy chick, I read my tarot cards periodically. For sure the first week of each year. But also when I’m feeling uncertain about life, or paths through now into forward. And while I trust the Jungian mechanism I believe makes tarot cards ‘work’ for those of us who read them, I wish there was something else, too. Something like a kind of spiritual blood test for low blood sugar, or hypoactive thyroid… :)

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the author's

the author’s

There certainly are times when my spirits are lacking the spiritual equivalent of blood sugar — the whole what have I done??? when I contemplate the upcoming move. The fear that my younger son won’t recognise blood poisoning from the nail he jumped on until too late. The consuming anger at people who try to legislate classism, racism, sexism… I could use a test to make sure I’m at least annually ridding myself of these toxic residues!

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So here’s to the idea of a beginner’s heart check-up/ check-in. One where I try to remember the basics of my wisdom tradition: compassion, right speech & action, love. Kind of like sleep, exercise, healthy food. If you take care of the basics? The checkups won’t be so bad… :)

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the people my pets are

the author's

the author’s

My animals are far better people than I am. And they’re certainly better Buddhists. They love me no matter my mood, whether I forgot to feed them, whether I feel like messing with them or petting them (sometimes I feel more like messing w/ them — tickling their feet, skritching them against their fur lines)… They’re beyond patient with me.

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They console me when I’m blue (or green, or crimson w/ unrepressed fury!), sitting on my feet, my lap, my shoulders. At night, the cats curl into whatever hollow presents itself, and sleep contentedly. They don’t judge me (or anyone else). They don’t yell at me. They just love me.

While I fret against an unknowable future. Rail against impersonal fate. Worry about how I can ‘fix’ what is all too often unfixable.

I want to be that kind of person. That kind of Buddhist — full of love & comfort & trust. Offering a warm hug instead of profanity at the latest in a string of political tragedies. Trying to not try so damn hard. It’s not like I even CAN fix what is most heart-breaking: Eritrea’s child slavery, America’s racist ‘justice’ system, the inequities of a global system increasingly slanted to benefit the highest bidder.

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Nope. Pascal, Hugo, Hector, & Sophie could care less. dogs sleepingThey are grateful every time I feed them — they never take meals for granted! Hector is ecstatic when I turn on the faucet to drizzle fresh cold water, and Hugo even loves it when I bathe him (well, he loves how he feels after I bathe him….almost the same thing, right?). Each of the four has his/her own way of showing love: headbutts, paw pokes, slobbery kisses.

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I’m a terrible Buddhist. I rail against heartless politicians. I judge (often & loudly) the idiocy of those in power. I shake my head at the double standards of so-called leaders. I yell, swear, and sometimes even throw things.

All the while, my fur babies soothe, console, and remind me what’s really important: love. Love is what we need to offer each other — in the form of food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, comfort for the lonely. And from my fur family? Love is that wonderful animal pleasure of soft fur and warm hearts.

I don’t want to be a cat or dog, honest. But sometimes (what am I saying: often!) I wish I was as good a person as mine are. Truth.

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writing, reflecting, old & new friends

the author's

the author’s

I just spent the BEST weekend: writing poetry, visiting w/ one of my most beloved writing communities.
This is one of my very favourite weekends of my writing year. I get to immerse myself in talking about writing. I write; I read; I coach; I laugh & cry & do it all again. All weekend. And yes, it’s absolutely exhausting (I will sleep for HOURS tomorrow!). It’s also soooo enriching, so spiritually replenishing, just wonderful.

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The Abbey at Conception is a big part of that. While I’m not a Christian, I have the utmost love & respect for places of sacred conversation. At Conception Abbey? You can almost feel the prayers rising — centuries of prayers float through the air like motes of light. Serenity — even during one of the many spring storms — is tangible: as thick as the Stella d’Oro daylilies spilling from weeded bed after bed.

In the peaceful embrace of Conception, and the enthusiastic love of friends I’ve been seeing (most of them) for 11 years, I blossom like one of those reliable daylilies. But not for only one day. No, I will carry the afterglow of limerick contests (really) and teasing and sharing and trusting for weeks.

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via google

via google

Each year I worry it can’t possibly be as magical as I remember. Each year it surpasses my expectations. Some years — like this one — I make new friends I know will last. All years I revisit ones I’ve become closer to each summer.

Writing communities are rare. Rarer still are ones that have weathered more than a decade. There are women — not only me — who have attended for the past 11 years that I have. That itself is part of the magic: continuity.

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But the real magic, for this beginner’s heart, is the obvious love & respect of every woman (and the few brave men!) for every other writer in this group. From the youngest participant (a 1st year teacher) to the 70-year-old college professor, each is valued. Each is necessary. As are their very different words, poems, stories.

Here’s to a world like my writing community at the Abbey: loving, trusting, diverse, and strong in the ways of good words.

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